I’m already a big fan of Louis Vuitton’s veined Epi leather bags, but this season the brand has taken the material in a striking new direction, using it for ready-to-wear clothes in its pre-fall collection. The gorgeous navy Epi lambskin raglan-sleeved blouson (£2,870) with calfskin on the reverse feels marvellous, as does a version (£2,825, pictured bottom far right) that combines panels of tobacco and chocolate Epi leather with wool. This exploration of process and materials is part of a trend that is imbuing leatherwear with fresh character and élan.
At Berluti, the talcum-treated, laminated Borrego calfskin usually used for shoes can now be found on bomber jackets (£6,705, main picture). This hide is superlight but incredibly strong, and has a very interesting matte finish with a unique patina – rich tan, dusty black and light pea (the latter not for shrinking violets) with woodgrain-like mottling.
Tod’s burgeoning ready-to-wear line includes leathers treated and tooled so they resemble other fabrics. A waxed and quilted forest-green leather parka (£2,210) and chocolate equestrian-style jacket (£1,680) look like worn waxed cotton; a buttersoft suede shirt (£300) feels like thick silk; a devoré tan suede shearling jacket (£3,440, pictured top centre) looks like corduroy; and laser stripe-printed navy suede trousers (£320) feel like soft wool.
Wool-like leather can also be found at Hermès; a belted, dark olive, soft sheepskin jacket (£13,608, pictured left) has three horizontal lines of patterned stitching and all-over fine perforations so the effect is like a 1970s Starsky & Hutch-style cardigan. This leatherwork embroidery is also used for a round-neck “sweatshirt” version (£9,315, pictured far left) that looks like a chunky knit. (Mixing genres further still is the most opulent take on a sweatshirt I have ever seen in plum crocodile – £55,485; it might not be ideal for the gym, but it is certainly a striking new use for precious hide.)
Distressed leather is a key look at Trussardi, under the creative directorship of Gaia Trussardi. I particularly like her take on a denim jacket in steel-blue textured leather (€2,130, pictured right), with burnished creases and seams; a worn and knotty shearling coat (€3,900) with matching backpack (€840); a light, supremely soft, cement-coloured deerskin nubuck leather jacket (€2,300) that feels like chamois leather; and a reindeer nubuck parka (€6,000).
Other new effects are achieved by melding contrasting fabrics with hide. Canali has created a tailored look by bonding beautiful forest-green nubuck to plush elephant-grey cashmere, seen in a military coat (£12,600, pictured above) and a pea coat (£4,210).
Emporio Armani, meanwhile, has grafted panels of knitted fabric onto antique-brown nappa kidskin for the front panels of a biker jacket (£1,290, pictured bottom centre) with asymmetric zip and high neck. (It makes me think of a jacket The Man Who Fell to Earth might have worn if, indeed, he had ridden a motorcycle.) Elsewhere at the brand, it’s the combination of fabrics that makes an impact. On a hooded, zip-up blouson (£1,485), front panels feature a jacquard knit with a brushstroke print, sleeves are New Zealand nappa leather, while the back and hood are crafted in a herringbone material. Fabric cross-pollination continues in a black degradé nappa leather and broadcloth collarless blouson (£1,160) with asymmetric zip.
More degradé can be seen at Alexander McQueen, on suede bomber jackets (£2,295) that fade gradually from dark to light. Most covetable are ones where velvety black shoulders become Weimaraner silver by the waistband (pictured above left) and another that turns from toffee to cocoa.